Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The lure of the road...

We just got back last Friday evening from a week long road trip...this time we started from home in Northern Virginia and the destination was Canada, more specifically the cities of Montreal and Quebec in the Quebec province of Canada. The trip started with the re-discovery of a 'much lost' music CD that 'magically' that 'D' and I had literally listened to in repeat mode on our first road trip together 12 years back (a trip that had taken us from the glam and glitter of New York City to the calm and placidity of the Florida keys)...The trip ended with this gorgeous view of the sun setting over the horizon as the road met the sky in the last leg of our week long road trip...what better way to end a road trip and to ensure the 'lure of the road' continues to persist!
On our way to Montreal, the pit stops in the first leg of our journey were Hershey's chocolate world in Pennsylvania, Niagara Falls in Ontario, Canada and Cobourg, Canada. For someone who was introduced to American chocolates with the Hershey's miniatures and almond kisses, the chocolate world was quite a treat. We went on a tour of the chocolate factory and got a sense of the chocolate making process, something that Raya seemed to keenly enjoy as well. As far as Niagara Falls is concerned, we had already seen the falls from the US side. This was our first time, viewing it from the Canadian side. While the beauty of the falls itself is unparalleled and the 'Maid of the mist'/'Hornblower' cruises give you an amazing feel of the aura and majesty associated with the falls, I am not a big fan of all the 'touristyness' and commercialization in the town of Niagara on both the US and the Canadian sides. Raya, however, had an absolute blast at the 'Maid of the mist'/'Hornblower' cruise that took us to the base of the falls and  she definitely didn't want to come back. Coubourg is a small,quaint, cute little Canadian town we stopped at for lunch...quaint, road side tea rooms and mom and pop cafes abound here, lining the narrow streets...a very strong British influence is apparent in the ways of the people there, like much of the province of Ontario.

'Jazzy' Montreal, on the other hand, is steeped in French culture. The official language of the city is French...all road signs are in French...Creperies abound...meals are relaxed and unhurried...the city is steeped in a culture of music and art...most other things are just like the French like to do it......the old town, with cobbled walkways, boutique shops and some really great restaurants, is beautiful and again oozes that quaint European feel. We stayed in a row home  in the Plateau neighborhood of Montreal...cobbled streets, beautiful row homes with multi colored facades, each with a 'Juliet' balcony, lined with maple trees on either side of the road...interspersed with small tea rooms, quaint bars and cozy restaurants...charming, cozy and romantic...Absolutely loved the city and we were lucky to be blessed with great weather for the 3 days we spent there.
We spent a day in Quebec City. This is the capital of the Canadian province of Quebec. Located on the bank of the St. Lawrence river, this city was one of the oldest European settlements in North America. It has the feel of the quintessential small French town...hilly terrain, on the bank of the river, cobbled streets, boutique shops, creperies, folks sitting around and chatting unhurriedly, under the shade of the abundance of maple trees that line the's one of those places that fills you with that absolute sense of calm and serenity.

Needless to say, while in Quebec, we hogged on 'Poutine' :). Poutine  is a Canadian dish, originating in the province of Quebec, made with french fries and cheese curds topped with a light brown gravy-like sauce.

On our way back from Canada, we made a pit stop at Princeton. We caught up with some of 'D''s relatives and spent a few hours, strolling around the Princeton University campus. We went on a walking tour of the campus and our student guide, Jake (an undergrad at the Univ), gave us a great feel of the history of the college and the approach to academics that the university pursues. I have to admit, I am one of those people who dread the thought of ever getting back to academics, as much as I used to love it at one point of time and had almost made it a career. But I won't hesitate to say that the charm and aura associated with the students
and campus of Princeton University, made me, if only for a wee bit, fall back in love with the thought of getting back to academics...
Oh well...I am afraid it's too late for that now :)

So that's that...we got back home to Northern Virginia just in time to celebrate munchkin turning 4...time flies and it brings a lump to my throat, each time I think of how quickly time is whizzing past...but yes, it has been 4 years already indeed :(

On a slightly different has been 4 years...4 continents ...4 road trips for little Raya:) . In the process of all this travelling around, either 'D' and I have succeeded in sowing the seed of the love for travel in her, or for all you know, all the traveling  may have had a completely contradictory effect on her psyche LOL...what the effect has been on Raya of all the travel these last four years, only time will tell...but as the lure of the road persists for us, we nurture dreams and hopes of many, many more road trips and travel, in general, with our teenie, weenie
companion...who will hopefully grow up to nurture this 'love' for travel and the desire to explore new places, cuisines and cultures, as much as 'D' and I do.

Leaving you with a few pictures of snippets of memories from this road trip...


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Musical bliss, kiddo transitions and more...

I am currently hooked to the music of Passenger, the stage name for Michael Rosenberg, who is an English folk rock singer  and songwriter. My brother,Ash,introduced me to his music a couple of weeks back and since then I have been hooked to his music, specifically the numbers "Let her go", " Wrong direction" and "Holes". It's a soulful blend of melody, words and meaning, that's quite unsurpassable. So that's that! On another note, musical bliss has been further enhanced by the realization that my little munchkin's taste in music has begun to match mine...Yes, finally!!:)

Till about a couple of weeks back, the song requests that came in from Raya were primarily for Nursery rhymes, cheesy Bollywood item numbers :), Katy Perry's Roar and Mark Ronson's Uptown Funk. I was getting quite tired of the monotonous musical routine. As much as I love Bollywood and peppy Katy Perry and Taylor Swift songs, the music routine at home and in the car was becoming a drag. So now it's a welcome reprieve, when added to that mix, I hear Raya say, "Mamma, put your favorite songs, 'Running in the wrong direction' and 'Hole in the pocket'". When I asked her, "Have these songs become your favorite too?" She replied with quite an emphatic "Yes". "'See you again' is my favorite too", she further chimed in. Not bad, I thought to myself. Wiz Khalifa's tribute to
Paul Walker being in my current list of fav 5s:) So that's that....quite a change from the last time we spoke of the state of music in our home(

On another note, the onset of the month of September comes with it's own share of excitement for the family...primarily being driven by Raya's excitement . So yesterday, as soon as I picked her up from day care, munchkin was all agog with excitement, "Mamma, tomorrow is September. My birthday is coming up. I will be a big girl". Oh well, it's been a while since I was so excited about
becoming a "bigger girl" LOL...but either way kiddo excitement can be quite infectious. So that's that.

Yes, munchkin turns 4 in a couple of's always a bitter, sweet feeling...the thrill of seeing your kiddo grow up and dealing with the pang of sorrow associated with your kiddo growing up way too fast. She starts pre-Kindergarten in a couple of weeks. Raya has been going to day care/play school since she was 8 months old. Of course it's a very young age to send a child to day care/play school. While it was the toughest decision I have had to make, I realized early enough I would be doing  her more harm than good, by quitting work and staying at home. I have never quite had the 'stay at home mom' kind of personality. Need my daily dose of adult interaction. And not just that, there's an inherent need in me to keep myself  abreast with what's happening in my line of work, which is close to impossible in the technology arena without actually having hands on experience. It was the toughest decision I have ever had to make. It was made tougher by the fact that more people had negative and horror stories to narrate about children going to day care/play school before the age of  1.5-2.0 years than happy stories. While my family was pretty supportive, there were quite a few people raising eyebrows at the decision...all I could do was pray that it was the right decision.

These past three and half years, we have been blessed to have Raya under the care of some really good teachers and caretakers. And our decision to send Raya to day care that early on, while I went back to work, wouldn't have been validated and deemed correct, without all the love
and affection that they have showered on her these last three years. She is attached to her teachers as well as friends and extended family, beyond DD and I, and I believe her emotional development has , if anything at all, been enhanced by her past three years of pre-school experience. Sometimes I wonder, if we will continue to be as lucky with teachers and schooling in the years to come...that would require some really good fortune...but there's no harm hoping for the best, I guess!

So a few weeks back, we had a parent teacher's meeting with Raya's preschool teacher. It went well. I was quite amazed by some of the things that these kids are exposed to and learn in school at such a young age. Towards the end of the meeting, I asked Raya's teacher, "So is there anything you think we should be specifically doing and teaching at home, to help her growth and development". The answer was simple, but even in it's simplicity, made my eyes water and I had to really put in an effort not to break down. Now I come from a family with very active tear glands over a period of time, I have had to make conscious efforts to maintain stoicity in the most adverse situations in public. Fortunately, I have, more or less, mastered that art over a period of time. Emotional outbursts and tears these days are confined to the walls of the home, more often than not, and to movie theatres,  LOL. In response to my question, what Raya's teacher said was as simple as," Oh just continue doing whatever  you are doing at home. You  guys are definitely doing a lot of things right for her to have grown up to be the girl she is !" A bit embarrased for letting my emotions out with  my watery eyes,on my way back  from the meeting, I wondered what the reason was for getting suddenly emotional. As I thought about it more, I realized it all boiled down to that  decision we made more than three years back  to send  an 8 month old little Raya to play school 5 days a week, away from the 'security' and 'warmth', more often than not, only associated with  home. I realized the  statement made by Raya's teacher was a positive validation of that decision made more than 3 years back to which without my realizing it, a  phlethora of pent up emotions  had been associated.

Either way, I plan to keep this on the record:) As small as it was, I am under no illusion that such validations will be frequent or lasting. As the years go by, I am sure there will be more and more situations when Raya and others will question our parenting decisions...God forbid, even despise us for some...That's when I want to pull this record out to make ourselves feel better with this small validation that not all our parenting decisions early on in Raya's life were bad!:)

On a side note, 'D' says my blog has become a 'mommy' blog and I should start writing about other stuff...Oh well, the role of Mommyhood prevails at this point of time...but I promise to come back with something else sometime soon!

Happy Tuesday folks! Leaving you with a picture of some kiddo artwork...